The Sons of the Pioneers are one of the United States' earliest Western singing groups. Since 1933, through many changes in membership, the Sons of the Pioneers have remained one of the longest-surviving country music vocal groups.
In the spring of 1931, Ohio-born Leonard Slye—the cowboy singer who would later change his name to Roy Rogers—arrived in California and found work as a truck driver, and later as a fruit picker for the Del Monte company in California's Central Valley. He entered an amateur singing contest on a Los Angeles radio show called Midnight Frolics and a few days later got an invitation to join a group called the Rocky Mountaineers.
In the spring of 1932, Slye and two others left the Rocky Mountaineers to form a trio, which soon failed. Throughout most of 1932, Slye and another member moved through a series of short-lived groups until Slye finally joined Jack LeFevre and His Texas Outlaws, who were a popular act on a local Los Angeles radio station.
In early 1933, Slye and others formed a group called the Pioneer Trio and later that year the "Pioneers Trio" became the "Sons of the Pioneers" through a radio station announcer's chance remark. Asked why he'd changed their name, the announcer said they were too young to have been pioneers, but that they could be sons of pioneers. The name was received well and fit the group, who were no longer a trio.
By the summer of 1934, the Sons of the Pioneers' popularity and fame spread across the United States through short syndicated radio segments that were rebroadcast all over the country and they signed a recording contract with the Decca label, and on August 8, 1934, the Sons of the Pioneers made their first commercial recording.
Between 1935 and 1984, the Sons of the Pioneers appeared in 87 films, several movie shorts, and a television series.
In 1938, Leonard Slye was offered a contract as an actor with a rival movie studio. Part of that deal required him to officially leave the group. Leonard Slye changed his name to Roy Rogers, and went on to achieve major success as a singing cowboy in the movies. When their contract ended, the Pioneers signed a new contract to be with Roy and were soon appearing as highly popular supporting players in many of Roy Rogers' movies.
In 1971 members Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer were both elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 1976, the Sons of the Pioneers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1977, the Smithsonian Institution named the Sons of the Pioneers as "National Treasures".
In 1995, the Sons of the Pioneers were inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The group has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6845 Hollywood Blvd. for recording.